In May 2018 I quit my job with a decent salary to set up my own business — La Vida Liverpool online magazine. I had been working on content for its launch thanks to the help of my good friend Barry, who designed the website and made the dream a reality, but following my father’s death in March 2018 I decided to take the leap of faith and go headlong into making the magazine my sole livelihood.
In this article I would like to share the key things I’ve learnt during the process of creating my own business. Not because I’m one of these self proclaimed business gurus or ‘influencers’ who thinks they’re the dog’s bollocks — because I want to share my experiences and potentially help those who have a business or are thinking of creating their own.
During the last 18 months or so I’ve learnt many lessons about business. After 15 years in various sales roles (energy, finance, debt recovery, digital marketing) I thought I knew my shit, but I have never learnt more about sales, people and life than I have running my own business. Here I bring you the 9 key thing’s I’ve learnt running La Vida Liverpool online magazine….
It takes planning (but be flexible too)
So many people have a beautiful vison of how their business is going to be but this is often naïve and lacks planning. Many have a general plan but fail to take into account the nitty gritty — the plans within the plans. They create an A to Z roadmap for their journey but forget the specifics of getting from A to B for example.
The key to having your own business is to plan — in fine detail — what you are going to do and how you are going to achieve each and every thing on that step by step process. Leave no stone unturned. That said, no matter how water tight your business plan and model is — be flexible. Things change and you may find yourself tweaking things many times until you find the perfect process.
It takes blood, sweat and tears
It’s easy to get carried away when planning your business venture, but idealist images of sitting on an exotic beach pushing buttons and directing orders to your minions back home are soon extinguished. Running your own business takes blood, sweat and tears — and then some. Please — do not be disillusioned or think it will ‘be ok’.
Running your own business requires you to be a risk taker — someone with balls and vision — but also someone who isn’t afraid of hard work. During the last 18 months having La Vida Liverpool, I’ve often worked 12-16 hour days. I’ve sacrificed holidays. I’ve sacrificed my relationship. I’ve been so skint I’ve thought about ending it all. The truth is there are no shortcuts and even if there are — the prize is so much sweeter when you’ve worked for it!
Don’t give up (as long as things are going in the right direction)
A wise man (Daniel Davies of Rockpoint Leisure, The Victoria Quarter, New Brighton) once said to me: “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” It’s also important to remember though, a man who makes the same mistakes and follows the same failing model is a fool. Running your own business is not easy, but it’s important to never give up — as long as it’s moving in the right direction.
During the last 18 months running my own online magazine, I’ve seen the web traffic grow constantly to 750+ visits per day, the Facebook following grow constantly to 6,500+ followers and the revenue increase gradually too. There have been times I’ve been so skint I’ve been close to giving it all up, but as long as it’s been growing I keep believing.
Talk to people (make lots of noise)
In business it’s vital to talk to everyone about what you’re doing! The more vocal your are and the more conversations you have, the more opportunities will arise. During the last 18 months I’ve talked obsessively about La Vida Liverpool and have been on the radio four times — this has led to many amazing things.
Things only happen via communication. You can be sitting on the best business and product in the world, but if you don’t tell anyone about it nothing will become of it. I’ve found that simply a conversation in a pub with a stranger can lead to phenomenal opportunities — keep telling the world about what you’re doing, as eventually the right people will listen.
Listen to people (but make the final decision yourself)
As soon as you have your own business the spotlight is on you. All your friends, associates and others all of a sudden become business experts. The more you talk about what you’re doing (which is vital, by the way, as opportunities arise), the more people try to tell you what to do. Some advise, some preach, there’s lots of noise.
Most importantly here, you must listen to every opinion and perspective but always believe in your own. Know your limitations and don’t be afraid to ask for help, but stick to your plan if it’s solid — remember, you call the shots. When people are giving advice, listen to the ones who are successful and those who have made it and try to understand the reasons why they have, then translate that into your own business model and situation.
Time management is key
I’ve come to learn that without a daily structure and plan, you can quite easily be a busy fool. The difficult thing about running La Vida Liverpool is that when I am creating articles, going on appointments, doing admin etc. I am not generating new leads. I have therefore had to structure my day to allow new lead generation and work smarter.
For example, I attend all my appointments on public transport. This means that when I am travelling to see clients I can make phone calls, book new appointments etc. on the go. In addition to being clever with time, I have mastered the art of sussing out which clients and projects will take up too much time. Prioritise what is going to make you money and don’t be afraid to say no to things.
People will mess you around!
This is quite possibly the biggest lesson I’ve learnt having my own business. Whilst working for other businesses I’ve been guaranteed a basic. What this means, despite having sales targets, is that if someone decides to be a tyre kicker and a time waster and basically mess me around — yes it affects me but I’m still getting paid.
After years of working in sales, I never thought I’d take it so personally as I do these days when people mess me around with my own business. It means so much more. Sometimes it’s the difference between eating, paying your rent, paying your business bills. Yet people will always mess you around — unfortunately, independents f*ck over independents when they should know better.
The key thing here is to learn quickly who are the b*stards and who are the genuinely busy independents. There are people out there who will say yes and agree to your work, terms etc. but then be honestly too busy running their own business and life to fulfil the promise — then there will be absolute b*stards who will make you work then swerve you.
There have been a number of times with La Vida Liverpool I’ve been on the brink of naming and shaming. There have been times I’ve wanted to scream. It’s so annoying, not to mention bloody awkward, having to constantly pester people — time should be spent chasing new business not old — but you just have to accept it or put processes/terms in place to negate it such as taking deposits.
Do a deal but value your worth
Running my own sales and marketing business means I deal with lots of different people — lots of different personalities. Because this impacts your livelihood so directly, you begin to learn very quickly who is going to be great to work with and who could cause you problems.
There are the ‘yes’ people who agree to what you propose, pay promptly and pay in full. Then there are the number crunchers who want to know every single stat and who will drive you down on price (these are usually the most demanding and picky too). Don’t be afraid to do a deal if it’s right but value your worth and your product — some of these people would drive you down until it’s free so stand your ground and call off the deal if necessary (search for a ‘yes’ person instead).
Cashflow is King (but also a killer)
Let me tell you — I am a great businessman but I’m shit when it comes to business. What I mean by that is I have a great business mind and can create lots of business, but when it comes to running the money side of things and putting money away for crucial bills I’m shocking!
In an ideal world it’s great to keep money away for important business bills, emergencies and investments, but when you’re not very good with money management this can become a big problem. You soon realise that Cashflow is King — one minute you can get loads of invoices in and you’re a 1 day millionaire, but the next you find yourself texting clients practically begging them to pay their invoices! I hate this part of my business!
So, during the last 18 months I’ve learnt so much and running my own business has been the most character building thing I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding! They say if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life again, and that’s definitely the case with me. It’s hard work but I love it!
If you’re thinking of setting up your own business or already run your own business, I hope you can relate to the above and perhaps find these things useful. All the best with business! 🙂